BASSETERRE, St. Kitts – WHILE surfing the web two Saturdays ago (Nov. 5), as I routinely do to keep abreast with what is happening in my country of birth, my attention was drawn to an articles published Kaieteur News.
On reading the article, headlined “Diamond shooting…Slain bandit’s father urges youths to find jobs”, this writer’s mind was plagued with a number of questions after reflecting on the crime situation that exists in the twin-island Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis.
However, before chronicling those questions, let me first highlight the major contents of the article.
According to Kaieteur News, having witnessed his 20-year-old son’s lifeless body with bullet wounds in a mortuary, Eric De Florimonte had called on all youths to stop robbing people and to seek jobs.
“If you cannot find a job, there are ways you can create your own work. Thieving is not good and you end up losing your lives and the good future you have ahead,” the media house quoted him as saying.
De Florimonte made that statement after his son, Simon Elijah De Florimonte, was shot dead when he and an accomplice were caught trying to break into a gold miner’s house at Diamond, East Bank Demerara, Guyana on the morning of Wednesday, November 2, 2016.
Reportedly, the father is hoping that young bandits would mend their ways before it is too late as in the case of his son.
“I had no idea this is what my son was doing. When I got the news I was very surprised. I think parents need to talk to their children because robbing people doesn’t pay since you end up losing your lives,” the man said.
The father told the media house that his son was employed at a city wharf and at times assisted him with his small business establishment.
“He put himself in that and he had a nice future. There is nothing I can do about what he did,” the father lamented.
According to the senior De Florimonte, on the night before his son’s death, he was imbibing alcohol with a few friends in front of his residence and “I went to bed and leave him drinking. When we got up the morning, he wasn’t in his bed so we started enquiring what had happened because he doesn’t leave home so early”.
Now, let us fast forward to St. Kitts and Nevis.
The Federation is not the only country in the Caribbean where brazen acts of criminality are committed; these acts are also being perpetrated by criminals in Guyana, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago, among others.
However, for a country with a population of just over 50,000, the Federation, from 2011 to date, has recorded 152 homicides and many shooting incidents, some of which had seen victims being treated for multiple injuries while a number of others escaped unscathed. There have also been large numbers of break-in, burglary, robbery and larceny incidents.
The police have repeatedly stated that they alone “cannot fight crime” and this was echoed by past and present Governments, the Chamber of Industry and Commerce and a number of other non-governmental organisations as well as prominent citizens in the Federation.
The police have been incessantly calling on members of the public to assist them in their fight against crime, stating: “If you see something, say something.” And only recently at a Church Service held in commemoration of Police Week 2016, Commissioner Ian Queeley told the civilians in attendance how to get involved in their respective communities in an effort to curb criminal activities.
“You can get involved by engaging and encouraging that discouraged or disconnected young person in your neighbourhood to be a better person, to embrace the opportunities to be more productive. Just knowing that someone cares about them can make a difference for some of our young people.”
He also reiterated that the Police Force could not be the only organisation to ensure citizens’ safety.
“You can get involved by reporting any information you may have regarding crime and criminal activity in your neighbourhood….and, yes, in your families as well.”
The top cop also encouraged them to call the confidential hotline, Crime Stoppers, at 1-800-8477 (TIPS).
It is common knowledge that only a few persons will collaborate with the police when they have information. The majority remains silent and those who are outspoken claim not to trust some officers and are afraid for their lives and those of family members.
Evidence of the fear of reprisals lies in a number of past incidents made known to this writer.
One evening in 2007, at about 8:30, a young man was seen scaling a fence aback a small business establishment on Victoria Road because three suspicious-looking men dressed in dark clothing were lurking in that area.
Some two weeks later, this writer confronted the young man and enquired the reason for him having to scale the fence.
“I had witnessed a crime committed in a certain place and was expected to give evidence in court on the Tuesday. However, on that Friday night when I jumped the wall, I was told of the three men’s presence at the eatery by a big man. The big man thought that they wanted to rob the eatery, but when he pointed them out to me I knew exactly what they intended to do. So I jumped the wall and I didn’t turn up in court to give evidence against their friend. After that I was free to walk the road without fear,” the young man explained.
Another targeted witness was a grandmother who resided alone in a one-bedroom wooden house in West Basseterre. She explained that she, too, was to give evidence in court and on two occasions Molotov cocktail was thrown at her house. Fortunately, on both occasions the fire was extinguished before it could have caused any damage.
The granny refused to give evidence, did not turn up in court and the perpetrator(s) ceased to bother her.
The third incident occurred a few years later in Irish Town, which resulted in the death of man who allegedly had evidence to incriminate a certain individual accused of rape. He was found dead days before the trial.
In recent times, however, there seems to be an increase in law-abiding citizens accessing the confidential hotline to provide information, as evidenced in the tipoff given to the police for them to unearth six illegal firearms and a quantity of ammunition in the Basseterre area on Wednesday (Nov. 9).
But what of parents publicly condemning the deviant behaviour of their children? What of parents, in one voice, advise the nation’s youth who are engaged in criminal activities to desist and seek jobs as the Guyanese father pleaded to young people in his country? Are these requests too hard a task? Are parents afraid of their children who are engaged in nefarious plots, or are they consenting recipients of their children’s ill-gotten gains?
There are numerous factors that contribute to crime and, for many years, sociologists and various organisations have posited that parental neglect is among those factors. But this writer also believes that parental encouragement is another factor.
On numerous occasions when this media house publishes the commission of crimes, especially homicides, from press releases issued by the Police Force, some people would say that the information is wrong. But when this writer or other journalists ask them to provide the correct information, they clam up.
Such actions therefore led this and other journalists to conclude that they knew exactly what transpired, who committed the crimes and why they were committed.
Further, it is a known fact that not only members of opposing gangs would have knowledge of the perpetrators of some homicides, but also parents, other family members and close friends. But what will they do? They also clam up, seek revenge and that is the beginning of the domino effect.
One parent was heard telling his son: “Shoot them before they shoot you.” Conclusively, that father knew that his son possessed a firearm and most certainly it had to be illegal.
This writer therefore joins with other peace-loving citizens and residents of St. Kitts and Nevis in their pleadings to gang members and those who are engaged in criminal activities to put down the guns, induce amicable settlements to your problems and seek jobs.
This plea also goes out to those parents who turn a blind eye to their children’s misgivings; those who do not ask questions when their unemployed children, especially males, enter their homes with certain items and or expensive clothing and accessories. The time has come for you to take a stand for truth and right. The time has come for you to get involved in stopping this vicious cycle of crime. The time has come for you to emulate your Caribbean counterpart, Mr. Eric De Florimonte.
As for the unemployed youths, this writer would like to suggest that you collectively form groups within your various communities and request audience with the respective Administration on both islands of this your once peaceful Federation, in an effort for them to find and implement solutions to your problems.